Following months spent in indoors under lockdown, here's how to ensure kids still have a fun-filled school holiday: iStock
Following months spent in indoors under lockdown, here’s how to ensure kids still have a fun-filled school holiday: iStock

For school children across the UK, the spring and summer terms have been completely disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It has also been a trying time for parents who have had to juggle homeschooling and working from home during lockdown.

All primary school children in England were scheduled to return for a month before breaking up for summer, but those plans were dropped by education secretary Gavin Williamson, with only Year 1 and 6 returning in the first week of June, alongside secondary school students in Year 10 and 12 from the 15 June.

While some pupils are having to readjust to classes in the new landscape, there’s less than a fortnight until they break up again for summer, before schools will reopen to all students in September.

After months of homeschooling and lockdown measures restricting outdoor activities and other facilities, keeping kids entertained throughout the summer may seem like an exhausting prospect, especially if the pandemic has also scuppered your holiday plans.

To help parents during this trying time and to make sure kids keep busy, we’ve compiled a guide for indoor and outdoor play, featuring a range of products from games to personalised books.

These activities will keep them stimulated, tire them out will help to make the most of the school holidays as our new normal begins to emerge.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Indoors

Books

Keep kids turning the page throughout the holidays with Oi Stop Eating the Roses by Snapdragon Books (Snapdragon Books, £9). Much loved by our reviewer, it topped our guide to the best-personalised children’s books.

You can personalise this book to make it extra special for the reader (Snapdragon Books)
You can personalise this book to make it extra special for the reader (Snapdragon Books)

Each handmade copy is personalised, not just with the child’s name, but with thoughtful details such as their favourite songs, hobbies and friends, which are woven into the story.

These special details also make it a perfect keepsake birthday gift if they’re an August baby.

In a fun twist, a photo on the final page transforms the recipient into a minor celebrity. Our reviewer describes it as “best suited to children of around four to six, or any kid who is old enough to have their own favourite things.”

For older children, Photo adventures by Jan Von Holleben (WHSmith, £8.15) is an activity book that offers a creative alternative to scrolling through social media feeds on the sofa all summer.

Get their creative juices flowing with this activity book designed for older children (WHSmith)
Get their creative juices flowing with this activity book designed for older children (WHSmith)

In our round-up of the best activity books, our reviewer praised its innovative concept, saying: “It does not contain prescriptive pre-packaged activities as such; instead, photographer Jan Von Holleben presents ideas for taking funny, imaginative or mind-bending photos with a smartphone camera and household props such as mirrors, pillows and footballs.”

For children at the top end of infant school, we’d recommend The grunts on the run by Philip Ardagh with Axel Scheffler (Amazon, £5.94), which is the fourth book in the popular series about the Grunt family.

The signature illustrations and easy-to-follow storyline impressed us in this book (Amazon)
The signature illustrations and easy-to-follow storyline impressed us in this book (Amazon)

The slightly bonkers sense of humour is perfect for readers aged nine to 11 – though younger children will enjoy having these books read to them too.

Colouring books

If you’re planning a drive to the coast or need ideas for rainy days, colouring books are a great way to keep children entertained.

For little ones starting school for the first time in September, we loved the 28-page book The animal numbers colouring book by The Jam Tart (The Jam Tart, £16).

This is a great first colouring book for beginners (The Jam Tart)
This is a great first colouring book for beginners (The Jam Tart)

It’s a great way to start teaching them about more than just animal names, as there’s a mix of formations to teach numbers too, featuring “seven snakes” and “nineteen newts” among other fun sections. Our reviewer said that they’d get their little tester to point out defining features too, like eyes and tongues.

For older children, we were also impressed by Millie Marotta’s brilliant beasts by Millie Marotta (Waterstones, £9.99). Our tester’s 11-year-old loved the intricate designs and detailed images to colour in.

(With intricate designs that require concentration, this will keep kids quiet for hours (Waterstones)
(With intricate designs that require concentration, this will keep kids quiet for hours (Waterstones)

There’s 100 images in total, so it’ll last through summer, if not beyond and it’s a nice bit of mindfulness for young people, that adults can steal too when they’re not looking.

Games

Tear kids away from screens and get them involved in a family games night that you can make a weekly tradition.

In our guide to the best, we found that Monopoly voice banking (Argos, £16) was the most popular choice for kids aged eight and over.

The classic board game has had a modern upgrade with this voice-activated version (Argos)
The classic board game has had a modern upgrade with this voice-activated version (Argos)

It’s a twist on the classic board game, with an interactive, voice-activated Mr Monopoly banking unit who keeps tabs on players’ money and properties so there’s no cash or cards to think about.

A younger player between four and eight will enjoy Orchard Toys counting mountain (Orchard Toys, £10.50), which is simple to understand and play with others.

Climb the mountain to be victorious in this game for kids (Orchard Toys)
Climb the mountain to be victorious in this game for kids (Orchard Toys)

The aim is to be the first to scale the mountain, and you can make the game more complicated by using the yeti cards, which can send you back down the mountain. It was a huge hit with our six-year-old tester.

Puzzles

While many adults turned to impossibly difficult jigsaws during lockdown to pass the time inside, they’re also a way to work as a team and keep families of all ages engrossed.

This Usborne animals of the world jigsaw (Usbourne, £9.99) has 200 pieces and can be used to educate younger children on geography and wildlife.

This 200-piece jigsaw will keep kids occupied (but not bored) during the holidays (Usbourne)
This 200-piece jigsaw will keep kids occupied (but not bored) during the holidays (Usbourne)

It even comes with a book full of animal facts and anyone can get stuck in, whether they are three or 80-years-old.

For a colourful challenge that will inspire a mini history lesson too, opt for this Frida Kahlo pick me up puzzle (Talking Tables, £16). It is made up of 500 pieces that create a beautiful portrait of the Mexican painter. The illustration is hand painted by an in-house designer.

Teach your kids about the Mexican artist while completing the puzzle (Talking Tables)
Teach your kids about the Mexican artist while completing the puzzle (Talking Tables)

In our round-up of the best puzzles for kids and adults, our reviewer said this makes quite the challenge: “It’s easy enough for older children to join in happily enough though the pieces seem terribly small – we definitely needed to work out a strategy before beginning.”

Outdoors

Garden games

If a staycation in the UK is on the cards this summer, bring along some outdoor games to keep the whole family entertained.

In our guide to the best garden games, this Professor Puzzle giant toppling tower (Summer Outdoor, £35) won a spot as a must-have for any Jenga fans.

A colourful take on a traditional game, this toppling tower set is sure to keep kids and adults entertained (Summer Outdoor)
A colourful take on a traditional game, this toppling tower set is sure to keep kids and adults entertained (Summer Outdoor)

Instead of the usual wooden bricks, this game features five colours and a die, which when rolled will tell you your fate. It’s portable, easy to play and clean too – especially if you have little ones with sticky hands getting involved – and will stow away in the boot of a car without taking up much room.

We found this Decathlon geologic soft archery set (Decathlon, £34.99) to be an all-round crowd-pleaser that’s hard to fault too. In it, you get one bow, two suction cup arrows and one target.

Create your own competition with this set (Decathlon)
Create your own competition with this set (Decathlon)

“It has many winning factors; it’s portable, the target simply doubles up as a carry case and it’s easy to assemble – the 13-year-old set this one up, and it’s surprisingly addictive,” our reviewer said.

“It really does appeal to all ages and grandad is often found perfecting his score, while the kids have been using it daily.”

Scooters

For a timeless way for kids to whizz up and down the garden, to the shops or on a trip out to the park, there’s nothing better than a scooter.

Available in a range of styles and colours, they’re easy to use and light to carry, as you will undoubtedly be lumped with them on the way home.

Of the ones we put to the test, we loved this Atom push kick scooter (Amazon, £159.99) that’s suitable for teenagers.

Zip from A to B with this state of the art scooter (Amazon)
Zip from A to B with this state of the art scooter (Amazon)

It has a dual-comfort suspension, a lightweight foldable frame, a coordinating travel bag and best of all requires very little assembly all you need to do is add the handles and the stand.

It’s stylish, robust and safe making for a smooth ride. Adults can even get in on the fun.

If however, you’re in the market for a scooter for a first-time user, kids as young as two-years-old will love this Ozbozz my first scooter (Amazon, £13.99).

For little ones new to scooting, this colourful style is safe and easy to learn on (Amazon)
For little ones new to scooting, this colourful style is safe and easy to learn on (Amazon)

There are four wheels that provide balance, and when your child’s confidence and ability grows, they can then be reduced down to three or two.

Sturdy, but not too fast, it’s perfect for a beginner riding in parks and on pavements.

Trampolines

A trampoline is a hefty piece of equipment, but provided you have the garden space, can be the source of hours of fun to keep kids and adults happy and healthy.

We bounced our way through many designs and found this Spring Free oval (Spring Free, from £1,195) to be the best.

(From dusk to dawn, this trampoline will provide hours of fun)
(From dusk to dawn, this trampoline will provide hours of fun)

As the name suggests, there are no springs, which are one of the main causes of trampoline-based accidents. Instead, there’s a rod-based system which doesn’t rust, corrode or make that irritating squeaking nose.

Paddling pools

While outdoor pools have already opened, indoor pools don’t open until the 25 July. Although that’s not a long way off, if you’re looking for a garden-friendly way to cool your kids down when it’s hot, then we’d suggest buying a paddling pool.

In our guide to the best, we those the Chad Valley 8.5ft volcano activity kids paddling pool (Argos, £35), as our favourite.

Keep kids entertained with this blow-up paddling pool (The Independent)
Keep kids entertained with this blow-up paddling pool (The Independent)

This colourful play area is complete with a blow-up slide, palm trees, ring hoop and of course, the volcano itself.

Our reviewer inflated theirs in just under 15 minutes, using a pump, and their little testers felt it easily lived up to their high expectations. It folds up flat afterwards, too.

For more inspiration, visit our IndyBest kids section

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